TV cooking shows go to war
Knives are drawn in the latest food show, writes Colin Vickery
MY Kitchen Rules judge Pete Evans didn’t exactly cover himself in glory when he appeared last year on MasterChef Australia.
In May, the Hugo’s restaurant impresario took on wannabe-chef Julia Jenkins in the Celebrity Chef challenge — and lost.
Evans’ signature tea-smoked duck scored 24 out of 30 from judges Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan. Jenkins’ version scored 27.
It was the upset of the series but Evans took it in his stride. He was so impressed by Jenkins that he offered to mentor her for the remainder of the series.
Evans recalls the defeat with good humour. In fact, he reckons the upset result was the spark that turned MasterChef Australia into a fullblown hit.
‘‘It could go down in history as either my smartest move or the dumbest move in culinary history,’’ Evans says with a laugh.
‘‘None of it was premeditated. I’m sure the ratings went up another million (viewers) the next day after that happened.
‘‘I reckon Channel 10 owes me a lot for the MasterChef Australia phenomenon.’’
So does Seven, because it’s doubtful My Kitchen Rules would have gone ahead if it hadn’t been for the success of MasterChef Australia.
The new series is a spin-off of the earlier My Restaurant Rules, which aired in 2004 and 2005.
Hosted by celebrity chef Curtis Stone and then Australian Idol judge Ian ‘‘Dicko’’ Dickson, MRR pitted five couples from Australia’s five largest cities against each other to open a successful restaurant.
My Restaurant Rules was a moderate success but a proposed third series never eventuated.
Kitchen keeps the state-versusstate template of Restaurant. This time five teams of two attempt to out-wine and out-dine each other by turning an ordinary home into an instant restaurant — with $100,000 in prizemoney at stake.
‘‘I believe we ( MKR) have the same elements (as MasterChef Australia) that will attract a large audience,’’ Evans says.
‘‘The beauty of this show is that they (the contestants) are passionate home cooks. They all have different reasons for loving food.
‘‘Matt Moss (NSW) is a policeman who was shot on duty. He . . . uses cooking as his meditation from a high-pressure job.
‘‘The two Victorian boys (Clint Yudelman and Noah Rose) are young professionals who use cooking as their socialising tool. Instead of going out at night, they love to entertain at home.
‘‘Melissa and Paul (South Australia) are left of centre — a bit arty. For them, cooking is all about selfexpression. My Kitchen Rules, PG Channel 7, Monday and Tuesday, 7.30pm State-versus-state cookoff Duration: 1 hour
Evans’ fellow judge on My Kitchen Rules is acclaimed French chef and restaurateur Manu Feildel who owns L’etoile in Sydney’s Paddington.
Anyone who watched MasterChef knows that part of the show’s success was because Preston, Calombaris and Mehigan ripped up the nasty blueprint of so many TV judges. They nurtured contestants and were honest in their assessments.
Evans says he and Feildel adopted a ‘‘tough but fair’’ attitude on My Kitchen Rules.
‘‘I took a simple view that I’d judge the food on the plate in front of me and not the people who cooked it,’’ Evans says.
‘‘I judged them as if they were my own chefs creating a dish for me to try in my restaurant. There’s no point mollycoddling people. They want to improve and that’s why they’re on the show.’’
Cook and see: My Kitchen Rules contestants (back row, from left) Paul, Melissa, Gabe and Matt; (middle) Natalie, Marc, Noah and Clint; (front) Tanja and Gen. Right: judges Manu Feildel (left) and Pete Evans.